What is a Near Miss and How to Report It?

near miss in construction

What is a Near Miss?

A near miss is an event that could have resulted in injury, illness, or damage but did not, either by chance or timely intervention. It is a crucial concept in workplace safety because it highlights hazards and weaknesses in safety protocols that might otherwise go unnoticed until an actual accident occurs.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) encourages the reporting and investigation of near misses to identify root causes and implement corrective actions. In essence, a near miss is not just an avoided accident but a valuable learning opportunity. It reveals weaknesses in safety measures and provides a chance to strengthen them before an actual incident occurs.

Incidents vs. Near Miss vs. Accidents

While incidents, near misses, and accidents are related, understanding their differences is crucial for effective safety management:

    • Incidents: General term for any unplanned event disrupting normal operations.
    • Near Misses: Specific incidents with no harm but high potential for serious consequences.
    • Accidents: Incidents resulting in actual harm, requiring investigation and corrective action.

Common Near Misses in the Workplace

Understanding common near misses in the workplace can help organizations take proactive steps to prevent accidents. Here are three typical near miss events, their descriptions, and preventive measures to mitigate risks.

Close Calls with Equipment Malfunctions

Equipment malfunctions are a frequent cause of near misses. These incidents occur when machinery or tools exhibit signs of failure, such as unusual noises, vibrations, or sudden stops, but do not result in injury or damage because the issue is identified and addressed in time.

Preventive Measures:

    • Regular Maintenance: Implement a stringent maintenance schedule to ensure all equipment is routinely checked and serviced.
    • Operator Training: Train employees to recognize early warning signs of equipment failure and report them immediately.
    • Pre-Use Inspections: Encourage workers to perform pre-use inspections of equipment to identify potential issues before starting work.
    • Emergency Protocols: Establish and practice emergency shutdown procedures to safely stop equipment if a malfunction is detected.

Slips, Trips, and Falls Without Injury

Slips, trips, and falls are common near misses where workers lose their footing or balance but manage to avoid injury. These incidents often occur due to wet floors, uneven surfaces, or obstacles in walkways.

Preventive Measures:

    • Good Housekeeping: Maintain clean and clutter-free work areas, ensuring walkways are clear of obstacles.
    • Slip-Resistant Flooring: Install slip-resistant flooring materials, especially in areas prone to wet conditions.
    • Prompt Spill Cleanup: Ensure spills are cleaned up immediately and use appropriate signage to warn of wet floors.
    • Footwear Policy: Require the use of proper footwear that provides good traction and support.

Unsafe Work Practices Observed

Unsafe work practices, such as improper use of tools, bypassing safety protocols, or neglecting personal protective equipment (PPE), often lead to near misses. These behaviors can result in potential harm if not corrected.

Preventive Measures:

    • Safety Training: Conduct regular training sessions on proper work practices and the importance of following safety protocols.
    • PPE Enforcement: Ensure that appropriate PPE is available and mandatory for all relevant tasks.
    • Supervision and Monitoring: Implement regular supervision and monitoring to observe and correct unsafe behaviors.
    • Safety Culture: Foster a safety-first culture where employees feel empowered to speak up about unsafe practices and suggest improvements.


Recognizing Near Misses

Identifying and understanding the signs and indicators of near misses is crucial for improving workplace safety and preventing future incidents. Here are the key signs and indicators:

1. Unexpected Equipment Malfunctions

Frequent equipment breakdowns or failures often indicate underlying issues that could lead to severe incidents. Erratic behavior of machinery, such as unexpected movements or functions, suggests a potential risk of malfunction or accident. These signs warrant immediate attention to prevent future hazards.

2. Unsafe Conditions and Practices

Blocked emergency exits and poor housekeeping, such as cluttered workspaces or unaddressed spills, increase the risk of accidents like slips, trips, or falls. These conditions indicate inadequate safety practices that need improvement. Addressing these hazards promptly can prevent more severe incidents.

3. Unusual Sounds or Smells

Strange sounds from equipment may signal impending mechanical failure, while odd odors can indicate chemical leaks or overheating components. These sensory indicators should be investigated immediately. Prompt action can prevent potential near miss events from escalating.

4. Minor Injuries and Incidents

Frequent minor injuries like small cuts and bruises can be warning signs of more significant hazards. Near accidents, where injury was narrowly avoided, highlight areas needing improvement. These indicators should prompt a review of safety protocols.

5. Operational Irregularities

Deviations from standard operating procedures and inconsistent equipment performance suggest underlying problems. These irregularities can lead to near misses or accidents if not addressed. Monitoring and correcting these deviations is essential for maintaining safety.

6. Environmental Changes

Sudden temperature changes around equipment can indicate overheating or other issues, while unusual vibrations suggest mechanical failure risks. These environmental changes should be promptly investigated. Identifying the cause can prevent potential incidents.

7. Visual Indicators

Visible wear and tear on equipment or tools can indicate a higher risk of malfunction or failure. Leaks, spills, or stains on floors signal potential chemical or material hazards. Regular maintenance and prompt cleanup are crucial for preventing accidents.


How to Write a Near Miss Report

writing a near miss incident report

When reporting a near miss, follow your workplace’s specific guidelines. Here are the general steps:

1. Gather Initial Information

a. Date and Time: Record the exact date and time when the near miss incident occurred.
b. Location: Specify the exact location of the near miss within the facility or worksite.

2. Describe the Near Miss Event

a. Brief Description: Write a clear and concise summary of what happened. Include details such as the sequence of events leading up to the near miss.
b. Unsafe Acts or Conditions: Identify and describe any unsafe acts (e.g., improper use of equipment) or conditions (e.g., poor lighting) that contributed to the near miss.

3. Assess Potential Consequences

a. Possible Outcomes: Detail what could have happened if the near miss incident had resulted in an actual accident. Consider potential injuries, damage to equipment, and any disruptions to operations.

4. Include Witness Information

a. Witness Details: If there were witnesses to the near miss, include their names and contact information, provided they give their consent.
b. Consent: Ensure you have the witness's consent to include their information in the near miss incident report.

5. Additional Information

a. Photographs or Diagrams: If applicable, include photos or diagrams that illustrate the near miss incident and the environment where it occurred.
b. Corrective Actions: Suggest or describe any immediate corrective actions taken to prevent a similar near miss in the future.

6. Review and Submit the Report

a. Double-Check Details: Review the near miss incident report for completeness and accuracy. Ensure all relevant details are included and clearly described.
b. Submit to Relevant Authorities: Submit the report to the designated safety officer or department responsible for handling near miss incidents.

Sample Near Miss Report Form

Date of Near Miss:
Time of Near Miss:
Location of Near Miss (Specific Area/Department):
Description of Near Miss:
Unsafe Acts or Conditions Observed:
Potential Consequences if Accident Occurred:
Witness Information (Name, Role, & Contact):
Corrective Actions Taken:
Additional Comments:
Reported by (Name, Role):
Reviewed By (Safety Officer):
Date of Report Submission:


Near Miss Incident Investigation

Investigating near misses thoroughly can uncover underlying issues and prevent future accidents.

Steps in a Near Miss Investigation:

  1. Gathering Information: Collect statements from involved parties and witnesses.
  2. Analyzing the Sequence of Events: Understand the timeline and actions leading up to the near miss.
  3. Identifying Contributing Factors: Determine what unsafe acts or conditions contributed to the near miss incident.

By recognizing and reporting near misses, workplaces can significantly improve safety standards and prevent potential accidents. Encouraging a culture of safety and openness ensures that employees are vigilant and proactive in identifying hazards.


Near Miss FAQs

Is a near miss a serious incident?

Yes, a near miss is considered serious because it indicates that a significant hazard exists that could potentially cause harm if not addressed, highlighting the need for preventive measures.

What is the near miss rule?

The near miss rule emphasizes the importance of reporting any incidents that could have resulted in injury or damage but did not, to identify and mitigate hazards before they lead to actual accidents.

What is the near miss accident theory?

The near miss accident theory posits that for every serious accident, there are numerous near misses that precede it, suggesting that addressing near misses can prevent more severe incidents from occurring.

What is the main factor that causes near miss?

Human error is often the main factor causing near misses, which can include lack of attention, insufficient training, or failure to follow safety protocols.

Why should near misses be reported?

Near misses should be reported to identify and correct underlying hazards, improve safety practices, and prevent future accidents by addressing potential risks proactively.


TRADESAFE is a leader in providing premium industrial safety solutions, including Lockout Tagout Devices, Eyewash Stations, and more; all precision-engineered to meet and exceed rigorous safety standards.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.